Qantas: top service hinges on technology and

By David Flynn, February 7 2013
Qantas: top service hinges on technology and

It’s been a busy seven months for Simon Hickey since he was promoted from chief of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program to the newly-created role of CEO of Qantas International.

But while the highly-regarded exec deftly juggles a half-dozen balls – among them the Emirates tie-up, a revised playbook for Asia, new lounges, and potentially new business class seats – he’s careful to keep his eye on service as a cornerstone of “the Qantas experience.”

“I’m a big believer in using technology to deliver enhanced service” Hickey tells Australian Business Traveller, pointing to the rollout of iPads among Qantas cabin crew and Qantas’ bespoke Red customer service app.

“With their iPads our customer service managers can get real-time information about our customers as they’re flying.”

“For example they can go up to someone who’s just made Qantas Frequent Flyer gold and say ‘Congratulations on making gold!’ and offer them a glass of champagne.”

Such Ryan Bingham-esque experiences aside, the iPads also streamline the collection of feedback and help the airline act quickly address the inevitable problems.

“Let’s say you’re on your second (flight) sector and there have been some issues in the previous sector” Hickey explains.

“The customer service manager can pass that information on using the iPad, so we can try and do something for you customer on the second leg of your flight.”

The human touch

But technology remains subservient to Hickey’s goal of service – it’s the means to a passenger-pleasing end – so Qantas International cabin crew have also been sent on training courses in what Hickey calls ‘service culture’.

“In the past we’d train frontline staff how to set a table, how to deliver a meal, technical stuff and of course safety, and that’s important.”

“But we realised that we had never invested in training our people how to have a conversation, how to communicate. So ‘service culture’ is about understanding communication and how to have a better conversations with people.”

“It’s about putting in the human touch and the feedback from our customers has been terrific. They say ‘We don’t know what you’re doing at Qantas but you’re doing something because we’re really having a better time on our flights.’”

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

20 Jul 2011

Total posts 17

A CSM recently gave me a demo of their iPad Customer Service app and it looks fantastic for providing customer information to help them provide individualised service experiences. He told me that they can sync the app before the door is closed and then again once they land, which sends through any comments or messages they create during the flight.  I did notice though, but didn't bother saying anything, that the iPad wasn't in Flight Mode during the flight when he was showing me...! ;)

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 14

I have to say, I think whatever Hickey's doing may just be working...
It's rare that I have a good story to tell when flying QF, however recent
flight to Hong Kong in PE was absolutely top - notch... may or may not have had something to do with the fact my travel buddy was Platinum One?

29 Sep 2011

Total posts 3

Yep - Platinum One's do have that effect... :) 

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 19

I almost agree. Having done a handful of business and PE trips over last couple of years, my observation is that the A380 crews are consistently excellent, but the 747 crews are very patchy (and downright unpleasant when you strike the worst of the bunch - a trip from HK upstairs in business 6 months ago really comes to mind here).  I don't understand the difference, but hope Hickey is fixing them all!

I recalled a recent QF long haul flight, where a rather brash cabin crew serving up economy class meals, was engaging in banter with passengers in an extremely camp tone telling them "what do you expect. It's not Master Chef".

There are some banter, which is appropriate and highly enjoyable whilst others may grate and irritate. I hope the 'service culture' training makes a distinction between the two.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 232

Does anyone have any screen grabs of this app?
I'd love to see how they've done it.

01 Feb 2012

Total posts 370

Glad to hear some people have had positive experiences, I think consistency is definitely the key here. e.g. I only know through this site that sometimes a CSM will say hello to platinum numbers, because I've never experienced this...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 316

That's a pity you haven't experienced personalized service. As a platinum, and also a few times while gold, had CSM's personally come into Y class and welcome me back Onboard. Have also had on more than one occasion where they have come through and offered me bottles of water and drinks after the normal service. I guess it does come down to each CSM, but I think it also has got to do with how you interact with crew as well. I personally try to say Hi to each member of crew by their first name (a technique by a quick glance of their name tag or security ASIC card).  Sometimes a quick conversation also let's crew warm up to you, rather than feel you may not want to be disturbed or unapproachable. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2012

Total posts 54

Probably not a good terminology to use in an airline blog - but at the risk of being shot down by pother readers I'll have a look at this from what some would call a sexist view. Many of the other "top airlines" seems to have much prettier fligh attendants. Virgin started it's life out this way. Does being pretty matter? Not sure but it helps. In the age of equality and political correctness we seem to be losing sight of this. 


I don't think it's an issue of equality or PC per se. Older crew bring much needed experience and a certain warm "groundedness", which I fail to receive when flying with some of the Asian airlines with a younger crew.


02 Nov 2012

Total posts 48

why does the link to the article about new business class seats end up in a "survey"?  this is not appropriate.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2539

What article is that, Les? I can't see it...


02 Nov 2012

Total posts 48

in this paragraph, the words "new business" are a hyperlink

But while the highly-regarded exec deftly juggles a half-dozen balls – among them the Emirates tie-up, a revised playbook for Asia, new lounges, and potentially new business class seats – he’s careful to keep his eye on service as a cornerstone of “the Qantas experience.”

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2539

That's not showing on my screen...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Dec 2012

Total posts 10

Me neither

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2539

Just a follow-up on this, Les - were you overseas when you saw "new business" hyperlinked? I'm now in Canada and seeing a double blue underline under "new business", which is due to the website's use of Kontera in-text advertising links which present themselves only to users otuside of Australia... although right now the links don't actually go anywhere, so I am not being led to any survey.


02 Nov 2012

Total posts 48

Hi David,  I'm in NZ and the link here leads to


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jan 2013

Total posts 55

Hi All, Unless you are a Plat 1 you will get nothing. From experiences with CX they greet OW Emeralds on mosts flights !

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 130

Re QF A380 versus QF 747 , If  you are finding a diferrence in hospitality/service  , then it mayb because   QF A380 have dedicated crew that only fly that aircraft and.. a majority of that crew are on diferrent employment contracts and generally work for an outsourse company for QF . 

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 19

Thanks, never realised that would be the case.  From a service perspective it seems to be a model that works,

08 Feb 2013

Total posts 1

I fly Q weekly coz I'm Gold and get good points. The only reason, I'm trapped within FF.  Domestic I find 70%, varying from 20% to some team members 100%. Generally I expect nothing more than rushed uninterested cabin crew who tell me they have no idea how to use the new iPads and don't worry about turning them off!! I see crew ignoring passengers with phones still on. How important is it really to turn phones and electronic equipment off.

Internationally, again I use Q coz of my status and points which is of course what FF is about, keeping me trapped, Q international I have found very varied also. I'll see what happens this April when I fly to London again.

If I could transfer all my status and points and benefits to another airline I'd seriously consider it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Nov 2010

Total posts 20

Get out amongst us Simon, those who are scared of Qantas' lack of service. if there's a big difference now, make me an offer to come back, convonce me. 

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